I’m old enough to remember the days of “hellfire and brimstone” preachers. Sin was serious business to them and they wanted us to know just how serious it was. Sometimes they may have focused too much on God’s judgment and not enough on His mercy and grace, but we humans have a great capacity for complacency in our lives, so they wanted to make sure we understood the consequences.
Fast forward several decades . . . now the very opposite has blanketed America. Sin is treated as if it is inconsequential as in the oft quoted phrase, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” (quote source here). The message nowadays is that “grace covers everything” so we can do as we please, using that as the perfect excuse for just about anything we want to do.
There is a balance between the two extremes and it is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. When I started this blog over three and a half years ago now–on July 20, 2010–it was not with the intent to focus on Christianity here in America but rather as a place to write about what it was like to be unemployed during one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history and in our own lifetime. I spent the first several months (through April 2011) just getting that hang of blogging (there is really no set of rules to go by although there is a lot of advice on the Internet about blog writing). I don’t remember how many blog posts I wrote before I deleted all of them in frustration at the end of April 2011 and decided blogging just wasn’t for me. However, three months later–on July 8, 2011–I fired my blog back up again and it just took off the second time around . . .
. . . And I’ve been writing about that “balance” since that time. I’ve written blog posts on both sides of the issue–writing some very hard hitting “hellfire and brimstone” posts and also a number of “grace filled” posts. Obviously, the “hellfire and brimstone” posts haven’t been nearly as popular. However, sin is still very serious business to God, and that hasn’t changed since the beginning of time regardless of how “in tune” we might think we are when it comes to “all things Christian” in America today.
However, the focus of this post is not on “hellfire and brimstone.” The message is a very simple one, yet one that is more important than any other decision we will ever make in our lives. It is more important then deciding who we marry, what career path we choose, climbing the social and/or corporate ladder, how much money we make, or how we can make a name and legacy for ourselves in this world. It is more important than knowing all the “right” people, or hobnobbing with the rich and famous, or acquiring as much education as possible (and, hopefully, not accumulating a mountain of debt in the process), or hoping to write the next “New York Times” best seller.
Before I go any further I want to state that there have been times when I have been writing a post that I feared the reaction some of them might create, but I felt compelled to write them anyway. Our society has become too “soft and easy” to the serious issues in life, and as you know if you’ve been reading my posts, “soft and easy” wouldn’t exactly describe a lot of them. However, I’ve never written any of them as if I was an outsider to the human race. No, I’m just as human and just as fallible as anybody else.
I was reading a couple of devotions this morning that hit home on two critical and important issues. The first is what we ought to say when we need to say it, and the second is the very simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both reminded me of something very important that all of us who call ourselves Christian should remember. And both remind us that it’s not about us, but about God’s power through Jesus Christ to change us–and others–too.
What You Ought To Say
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and
magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how
and what you should answer, or what you should say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour
what you ought to say.” ~Luke 12:11-12 (NKJV)
How many times have the words just . . . come to us? And yet for some reason, we still doubt that they will.
God is not just a God of external blessings, of improved situations and needs that are met. He also blesses our language, particularly when we’re under pressure, and we don’t know what to say.
The next time we have to go in front of a crowd, let’s seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And he will “teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
~Dear God, bless my language. Prepare me to say a word to your people today and each day in the future. And when I don’t know what to say, I trust that you will step in. Amen.~
As I read this, I wondered how often we have a tendency to just “hang out” with other Christians? And how often do our conversations focus on the very same things as the rest of the culture at large–how to make more money, how to get more of “the good life,” how to look good and be accepted, etc.? When was the last time we relied on the Holy Spirit to give us the words to say to others, especially a whole world out there who doesn’t know Jesus Christ or have only seen the plastic image representing Him in our “get more” brand of Christianity that saturates our culture. Folks, let us not forget that we are His representatives on this earth. Unfortunately, most of the time we act just like the rest of the culture. What’s up with that? No wonder so many folks “out there” are not convinced that Jesus Christ is real.
The second devotion is by Aaron Householder, senior pastor at Southview Baptist Church, for March 14th in “Open Windows” by LifeWay Publishers. The devotional passage for this devotion is Romans 10:12-13:
“For whosoever shall call upon the
name of the Lord shall be saved.”
~Romans 10:13 (KJV)
Whosoever. I trust that meant you; I am thankful that meant me. We praise God for our salvation. But does whosoever mean the wickedest woman you ever knew? Does whosoever mean the man who treated you so terribly wrong?
We say it does. But we don’t always live like it does. And we may not share Jesus like we know He will save anyone. We may not pray as if we know God can change the hardest heart. We sometimes lack trust that God can convince and change even the most cynical and sinful. We also hesitate to speak His Word in kindness and with boldness as often as He offers us the opportunity.
No matter what someone has done, no matter where they have been, and no matter what has been done to them, God will forgive. God can save. He did it for you. He did it for me. He will do it for whosoever will repent of sin and trust in Christ.
So let’s share Jesus with great faith. Let’s be winsome in our witness and pray to the Lord in confidence, knowing that He saves all who call upon Him.
~Father, I praise You for saving a whosoever like me. I pray that You would use me in leading someone else to Christ soon. Give me courage, wisdom, and Christlike love.~
For those of us who call ourselves Christian that is what life is all about at the very bottom line. It should be the focus of everything that we do and the basis of what gives us meaning in this life. We are not here to “get everything this life has to offer” but to offer the only true source of life that there is to others–personally knowing Jesus Christ who can change our lives now and forever. And He will be there to guide us in the midst of everything that we do (or encounter) in this life, no matter what our occupation is or how much money we have or don’t have, what our status is in this life whether pauper or King/Queen, and no matter what circumstances we might find ourselves in (planned or unplanned). God is no respecter of persons and He doesn’t play favorites (see James 2:1-13), and we shouldn’t either. “Whosoever” includes every human being on this planet.
We need to take our eyes off of everything our culture has to offer us and put them back on the One who redeemed us in the first place. We need to lay aside our complacency and our own lust for more of everything in this life and live for Him, and not just for ourselves. That is when the rest of the world will take notice, and that is when Jesus Christ will become real to them (and to us, too).
There is a lost and dying world out there who needs to see the reality of Jesus Christ, and if He isn’t evident in those of us who call ourselves Christian, how are they ever going to be convinced that He is real? We need to clean up our own act and stop living like what we do doesn’t matter. It does matter. And the whole world is watching . . . .
Whosoever shall call . . .
Upon the name of the Lord . . .
Shall be saved . . . .
For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish
but have eternal life.
~John 3:16 (NIV)
YouTube video: “Higher Love” sung by Salvador (on their CD “Make Some Noise” 2013):